Theatre of the Oppressed in Medical Humanities

In a broad sense, the term Medical Humanities is a field that integrates the 'Art of Humaneness’ and the 'Science of Medicine'. 

Over the last century and, especially over the last couple of decades, the sophistication of diagnostic and therapeutic medical equipment and procedures and an increasingly litigant society has led to a situation where the patient-physician relationship has eroded to one of a client and a caregiver, resulting in what is often referred to as commoditization of healthcare. As a result, the truth that health and ill health are about human beings, their bodies and minds, and about how they affect patients, their immediate family and the society they live in, is lost sight of. Patients and their relatives are left wondering if, today, “the well-being of the patient” is indeed the first concern of physicians - as it ought to be.

In medical circles, this  phenomenon has been long recognised and bemoaned. In an attempt to remedy the situation, many universities and medical schools and colleges offer  courses that teach ‘communication skills and ethics’  to medical students.
The Medical council of India (MCI) has also recognised the need for Medical Humanities in the MBBS curriculum and is evolving a strategy to integrate it closely with other modules in the "foundation course' during early medical school days. The proposed "ATCOM" module for medical teachers as a part of MET Cell activities is also a step in this direction.

Unfortunately, such ad-hoc solutions offer neither a quick fix nor a foundation-forming solution to the problem. In order that trust and a strong relationship between the physician and the patient be established, it is not
Forum Theatre Oppressed Medicla Humanitiesonly necessary to promote greater understanding between the doctor and the patient but also provide enabling solutions where all stakeholders  see themselves as a part of the larger society we all live in. Improvement in communication and hence greater caring will likely occur automatically if both the lay society and the physician community develop understanding about themselves. This awareness of oneself and one’s relationship to the society we live is one aspect of human personality and development that Theatre of the Oppressed techniques enable. 

Though the use of Theatre of the Oppressed is not entirely new in setting of medical practice, most times, its use has been restricted to Forum Theatre performances by non-medical people for a medical audience and, in mental health situations.

Our aim, however, is to work on a larger canvas – starting from medical student education to student –faculty relationships in medical school and of course in the field of patient care both in a hospital and community setting.

Forum Theatre Oppressed Medical Humanities
It was against this backdrop that  when Mr. Marc Weinblatt, the Founder of the Mandala Center for Change in  Seattle, Washington visited India, he was requested to conduct a six -day facilitator training workshop in Mumbai in January 2010. About 30 medical professionals including medical students, faculty in medical schools and paramedical professionals attended this six-day facilitator workshop.

Spurred by the positive feedback from this event and also based on the subsequent experiences of the participants in  Forum Theatre in the community, CCDC has decided that one of its areas of focus will be workshops on the application of Theatre of the Oppressed techniques in the whole field of medical education and medical care.
Theatre oppressed Forum medical humanities

As a part of this program, in September 2011, Radha conducted a two-day workshop in theatre of the oppressed culminating in a Forum performance at the University College of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India. This was the the first time that a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop was being conducted exclusively for medical students. The workshop and the benefits it had to offer were received with great enthusiasm. Seeing the usefulness of such workshops in the medical context, Radha has since conducted about 15 workshops in  in various parts of India and in Nepal. So far, close to 500 medical students, medical teachers and practicing doctors have participated in these Theatre of the Oppressed Workshops conducted by Radha Ramaswamy.
In addition, about a dozen doctors and medical students from all over India have participated in the six day Facilitator training workshops that Radha conducts.  Based on data from these workshops, the feedback and follow up results, CCDC plans to research the usefulness of Theatre of the Oppressed techniques in the Medical Humanities.

After participating in a recent Theatre of the Oppressed workshop facilitated by Radha, a senior medical teacher of Medical Humanities said.
"Theatre of the Oppressed techniques  will lead to better understanding of oneself. This will eventually translate into better faculty-student rapport and improved doctor-patient communication".
He opined that "Theatre of the Oppressed workshops should be  a part of Medical Humanities programs and all medical students and interested faculty should participate in it".

Sarath RS , a final year medical student from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, (AIIMS), Bhopal has this to say:
"I was a part of this workshop. It was great experience. I strongly recommend this workshop for other medicos."

You can see more Feedback from participants on this page.

If you want to explore the possibility for a Theatre of the Oppressed Workshop in your institution, please contact us .

Theatre oppressed Forum medical humanities
We are sure, with you, we will learn valuable lessons from these workshops and, fine-tune this medium in medical education and patient care.

However, given the  novelty of this activity and the magnitude of the task, we welcome professionals from all over the world who have ideas and suggestions or have had experience in this area to contact us with details.


Following is a list of articles published by Radha Ramaswamy, Founder of CCDC  and by participants at her workshops. These papers deal with the wider canvas of medical humanities in India and specifically on Theatre of the Oppressed in Medical Humanities.

Desire Imagination Action -  chapter in  "Routledge Handbook of the Medical Humanities" - edited by Alan Bleakley 

Ravi Ramaswamy, Radha Ramaswamy 

Embracing the unknown: introducing medical humanities into the undergraduate medical curriculum in India

Radha Ramaswamy

Theatre of the Oppressed in medical humanities education: the road less travelled

Setu Gupta, Abhinav Agrawal, Satendra Singh, Navjeevan Singh

Exploring medical humanities through theatre of the oppressed

Satendra Singh, Jagjit Khosla, and Shobhana Sridhar. 

Whither medical humanities?

Navjeevan Singh

A personal experience of Theatre of the Oppressed

Sunil K. Pandya

Experiences of a theatre of the oppressed workshop 

Imona Subedi, Pathiyil Ravi Shankar